Microsoft 365 Fundamentals (MS-900)

In April 2019, I took the Microsoft 365 Fundamentals (MS-900) exam.

Microsoft offer free training; they say that this will take 4 hours 11 minutes, although you might find that you need to repeat some of the videos if you didn’t fully understand it the first time through (e.g. if you got distracted). It would also be useful to supplement this training with hands-on experience; if you don’t have access to Microsoft 365 already, you can get a single user subscription to Exchange Online (plan 1) for £3/month (+VAT), which won’t break the bank.

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The actual exam costs £69 (+VAT) which is definitely at the cheaper end of the spectrum, and I took it from home via online proctoring. According to the FAQ, the actual exam lasts 60 minutes, but the total “seat time” is 90 minutes (allowing for time to read the NDA etc). Unusually, they don’t specify how many questions there will be:
The number of questions on an exam is subject to change as we update it over time to keep current changes in the technology and job role. Most Microsoft Certification exams contain between 40-60 questions; however, the number can vary depending on the exam.
My exam had 36 questions, and some of those had multiple parts (e.g. a list of statements where you had to mark each statement as true or false). However, the content has changed since then (most recently on 2020-04-14), so your experience might be different. As another example, @Microsoft365Pro said:
“I passed this exam on 31/01/2019 the day of the release. I had 63 questions in this particular paper.”
Either “63” is a typo for “36” or we had significantly different exams! The whole thing took me about an hour; I wasn’t pushed for time, but I didn’t have loads of time left over, so I think they got it about right.

The exam skills outline includes Azure AD, and there were questions about that in my exam. I haven’t done the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) exam yet, so I don’t know how much overlap there is between the two.

The skills outline also mentions “Microsoft 365 pricing and support options”. Without revealing too much, the idea is that you should be able to recommend the best plan for an organisation’s needs (e.g. E1, E3, or E5). So, read through this comparison and make sure you’re familiar with it. The key principle here is to minimise costs: E5 is a superset of E3, which in turn is a superset of E1, which means that E5 does everything. However, E5 also costs 5 times as much as E1. There’s no point in paying for features you don’t need, but you also don’t want to recommend a cheap plan if that won’t do what a client needs. Personally, I don’t think this is valuable; in the real world, I’d just refer back to that website rather than relying on my memory, and I’d rather save brain space for something else. However, it represents 25-30% of the exam, so you need to retain that information temporarily.

The exam also asked me to compare features of applications/services. This is where practical experience will help, and it’s more than just marketing blurb. For instance, they might ask you which screen you need to go to when you configure a particular setting; if you’ve done this several times then you’ll find it easy, but if you’ve just watched it done once in a video then you might struggle.

When it comes to Exchange, some tasks can only be done on-premises, some can only be done in the cloud, and some can be done in both places. Similar to the choice of plan, this will inform your choice about whether you want to migrate to Exchange Online, but I think this is more relevant to everyday tasks. As an example (not specifically related to the exam), suppose that you want to use DKIM to verify the integrity of your emails. Exchange Online has this functionality built-in, but if you want to do it on-premises then you’ll need a 3rd party plug-in.

In a similar way, there are various tools for collaboration (e.g. Teams). Using social media as an analogy, consider these questions about Facebook and Twitter:

  • Q: Where can you post a status update that’s 200 characters long?
    A: Both. Twitter raised their limit from 140 to 280 characters a while back, Facebook has a much higher limit.
  • Q: Where can you adjust the privacy settings of your posts (friends only vs public) on a post by post basis?
    A: Facebook only. On Twitter, it’s all or nothing.
  • Q: Where can you filter out posts containing certain keywords?
    A: Twitter only (mute words).

This is similar to what I said above: if you use those apps every day then you’ll know the correct answer, but if you’re trying to remember what you read somewhere then it will be more difficult. So, the exam rewards practical experience, which I’m glad to see.

From a security point of view, you should also be aware of relevant legislation. My exam mentioned GDPR (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation), so I wonder whether it was localised to the UK or whether that was just a happy coincidence; this is certainly more relevant to me than HIPAA (the Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the USA.

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